Tag: SSPE

Bob Sears on Ethan Lindenberger’s Senate Testimony

Not surprisingly, Bob Sears doesn’t seem to like that he was one of the folks who was called out by Ethan Lindenberger during his testimony before Congress.

Remember, Ethan Lindenberger was testifying at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing, Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?

Bob Sears on Ethan Lindenberger’s Senate Testimony

So what did Ethan Lindenberger have to “say” about Bob Sears?

In his written testimony that was submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, he wrote:

“…the measles outbreak was made out to be a unfounded panic created by big pharmaceutical companies and meant to push legislative agendas. Del Bigtree, a celebrity in the anti-vaccine movement, spoke with “Dr. Bob Sears.” My mom and I sat down, watching this video so she could prove her beliefs were not unfounded. In this video, Dr. Bob Sears claims that in the past 15 years there hasn’t been a single death to the measles. In contrast, 449 people have had fatal reactions to the MMR vaccine.”

Testimony of Ethan Lindenberger Student at Norwalk High school Before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee March 5th, 2019

These and many other comments didn’t make it into his oral statements.

Why not?

“Although Ethan did not include this information in his verbal testimony, it was part of his original verbal statements (which were leaked), then edited out – for obvious reasons.”

Bob Sears

The obvious reason is that each witness only had five minutes to speak, not some conspiracy as Dr. Bob seems to be implying!

And his original, written statements weren’t leaked. Like the statements of every other witness, they were posted on the Senate Committee website.

After clearing up all of that, do we still need to discuss how Dr. Bob is trying to justify any of his statements about the MMR vaccine?

Even though you can guess where this is going, let’s go ahead and do it to be complete, especially since Dr. Bob really does seem to want folks to know where “the fact” of the 459 fatal reactions to the MMR vaccine come from.

You likely already know this, but they are simply reports to VAERS. And you likely also know that “inclusion of events in VAERS data does not imply causality.” That little fact is included in a disclaimer when you search the VAERS database, which is why anti-vaccine folks created their own search tool at MedAlerts – the reference Dr. Bob uses.

A report in VAERS – a death following the MMR vaccine that was found to be caused by meningococcal meningitis.

But just because we understand that these reports aren’t proof of causality doesn’t mean that we dismiss them. No one dismisses VAERS reports as unscientific, as Bob Sears claims.

“And if you are the type of doctor, or Legislator, who likes to dismiss VAERS reports as “unscientific,” then please explain why HHS even bothers to collect the data? Spend millions of dollars collecting scientific data, then do nothing with it? Who does that? And what type of scientist ignores data? Is that what Congress had in mind when it created the VAERS system as a Federal Law?”

Bob Sears

For a guy who wrote a book about vaccines, you would think he understood the purpose of VAERS…

“VAERS is used to detect possible safety problems – called “signals” – that may be related to vaccination. If a vaccine safety signal is identified through VAERS, scientists may conduct further studies to find out if the signal represents an actual risk.”

CDC on How VAERS is Used

VAERS works.

Remember, it was using VAERS data that CDC and FDA vaccine experts quickly discovered that the first RotaShield rotavirus vaccine was associated with an increased risk of intussusception.

“In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned about this in a 1998 publication in Pediatrics that confirmed 48 cases of severe or fatal encephalopathy after Measles Vaccination in the 70s and 80s: 8 children died, and the rest survived but were neurologically devastated.”

Bob Sears

What about the AAP warning about encephalopathy and the measles vaccine?

Dr. Bob is talking about a 1997 paper, Acute Encephalopathy Followed by Permanent Brain Injury or Death Associated With Further Attenuated Measles Vaccines: A Review of Claims Submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which concluded that “this clustering suggests that a causal relationship between measles vaccine and encephalopathy may exist as a rare complication of measles immunization.”

“Nevertheless, with a denominator of 75,000,000 vaccinees throughout 23 years, the incidence of acute encephalopathy caused by measles vaccine in this cohort can reasonably be described as very low.”

Weibel et al on Acute Encephalopathy Followed by Permanent Brain Injury or Death Associated With Further Attenuated Measles Vaccines: A Review of Claims Submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

Bob left that part out, didn’t he?

Considering how many children used to die and develop measles encephalitis each year, this small risk would still seem to greatly outweigh the risk of remaining unvaccinated and at risk to get measles.

Fortunately, even that risk is something we likely don’t have to worry about!

“We did not identify any association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, or autism.”

Mäkelä et al on Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.

Although encephalopathy or encephalitis is still a table injury, studies have shown it is likely not associated with getting the MMR vaccine.

“For encephalitis and aseptic meningitis, the numbers of events observed within a 3-month risk interval after vaccination were compared with the expected numbers estimated on the basis of occurrence of encephalitis and aseptic meningitis during the subsequent 3-month intervals. “

Mäkelä et al on Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.

And then there is the 2012 IOM report, Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, which found inadequate evidence to be able to conclude that encephalitis was caused by vaccines.

“The last child to die from measles infection in the United States was back in 2003. Since then, over 100 fatal VAERS reports have been filed for the MMR vaccine. At what point would mandating this no longer be considered in the interest of the greater good? “

Bob Sears

Bob ignores those reports and ignores the fact that a woman died in 2015.

He also ignores the fact that you don’t even have to go all of the way back to 2003 to find the last child who died of measles.

  • a 17-year-old died of SSPE in 2004
  • a 1-year-old died of measles in 2005
  • an 11-year-old died of SSPE in 2005
  • an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old died of SSPE in 2006
  • a 19-year-old died of SSPE in 2007
  • a 13-year-old died of SSPE in 2008
  • a 17-year-old died of SSPE in 2011
  • an infant died of SSPE in 2012

More importantly though, he ignores that fact that the only reason that there aren’t even more measles deaths these days is because most people are vaccinated and protected! Even Bob used to understand this…

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

Unfortunately, people shared their fears with their neighbors… And we are seeing the consequences of what happens when folks scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Bob Sears’ Response to Ethan Lindenberger’s Senate Testimony

More About Measles Deaths in the United States

Anti-vaccine folks like to talk about death and measles, as long as they can talk about vaccine deaths, something they seem to think happens commonly.

“Over the past ten years in the U.S., there has been one reported death from the measles, and it is unclear based on the medical history of the patient whether and how measles played a role in their death. During the same time period (based on Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports), there have been 105 reported deaths associated with the MMR or MMRV vaccinations.”

Measles Madness: Dr. Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators

There are two big problems with this statement, that is so often repeated that it is clearly a PRATT – a point refuted a thousand times.

The reports in VAERS about deaths after MMR are not proof of a cause-and-effect relationship.

“Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.”

Guide to Interpreting VAERS Data

In fact, studies have shown that most of the reports of deaths submitted to VAERS are coincidental and not causally associated with a vaccine.

But what about deaths following a natural measles infection?

There are plenty of those that anti-vaccine folks love to ignore.

Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research = WONDER
Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research = WONDER

Where are they?

There were actually 5 SSPE deaths and 2 measles deaths in 1999, but I started the list from 2000, as that was when the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States.
There were actually 5 SSPE deaths and 2 measles deaths in 1999, but I started the list from 2000, as that was when the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States.

These deaths are all in the CDC Wonder database.

Before the death of the woman in Washington in 2015, the CDC caused a lot of confusion by stating that “the last verifiable death in the United States from acute measles infection occurred in 2003 when there were 2 reported deaths.”

Does that mean that the measles deaths in 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2012 didn’t happen?

Of course not!

The information in the CDC Wonder database comes from death certificates that are sent in from all over the United States to the National Vital Statistics System. The system isn’t like VAERS though, where just anyone can send in a report. Still, they are unverified, which is why the CDC doesn’t mention them all.

Still, if anti-vaccine folks are going to push VAERS reports that we know are likely coincidental, then they shouldn’t ignore these measles deaths.

More About Measles Deaths in the United States

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Measles?

The first measles vaccine was developed in 1963 and its use led to a quick drop in measles cases in the United States.

In fact, as most people know, the endemic spread of measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.

What does that mean?

A typical case of measles, as described in 1920, doesn't sound very mild or marvelous as some folks claim it to be.
A typical case of measles, as described in 1920, doesn’t sound very mild or marvelous as some folks claim it to be.

For one thing, it means that many people in the United States have never actually seen anyone with measles.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Measles?

As we are seeing more and more measles cases each year, it makes it important for everyone to learn how to recognize what measles looks like. Measles is so contagious, that missing just one case can lead to a lot of other people getting exposed unnecessarily and can keep an outbreak going.

So what does measles look like?

Call before you go to the ER or to see your doctor if you think your child has measles so that you don't put others at risk.
Call before you go to the ER or to see your doctor if you think your child has measles so that you don’t put others at risk.

After being exposed, kids with measles will develop:

  • a high fever
  • cough and/or runny nose
  • red, watery eyes with photophobia (dislike of bright light)
  • sore throat
  • irritability
  • decreased appetite

That sounds like many other viral infections that kids get though, which is why measles is so hard to diagnose, at least at the beginning stages of the illness, when kids only have the first signs of measles – the fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis.

Koplik spots, small gray-white spots in your mouth, are another clue that a child might have measles. They can develop on the second or third day of fever.

Next, after having the high fever for 3 to 5 days, kids develop a worsening fever and the classic measles rash. It is important to note that you are contagious well before you get the rash though, up to about four days before the rash develops, providing plenty of chances to expose others before you ever know you have measles.

“It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body.”

Measles Signs and Symptoms

While many diseases have a fever with or followed by a rash, it is very characteristic of measles that the fever continues for a few more days as the child develops the rash.

“You’ll usually feel most ill on the first or second day after the rash develops.”

Measles Symptoms

This is when most kids get diagnosed, typically with laboratory confirmation.

Unfortunately, because of the high fever and irritability, they may have sought medical attention a few times and could have exposed a lot of people already, especially as you continue to be contagious until you have had the rash for at least four days.

“After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.”

Measles Signs and Symptoms

All together, these classic measles symptoms typically last about a week. As the rash fades, parents might notice staining and then a fine desquamation (skin peeling).

Of course, if any complications develop, the symptoms can last much longer.

What complications? Remember, measles was once called a harmless killer

Complications of measles can include:

  • ear infections
  • diarrhea
  • croup
  • pneumonia
  • seizures
  • encephalitis
  • myocarditis

And tragically, some kids don’t survive having measles.

“Furthermore, the risk of contracting other infections or dying remains high for several months after recovery from acute measles infection.”

Treating Measles in Children

And although most do survive the acute infection, we know that these kids are still at risk for getting other infections in the next few months and are at a later risk for SSPE.

Get vaccinated. Stop the outbreaks. There is no good reason that our kids should have to get measles today.

More on the Signs and Symptoms of Measles

More Measles Hysteria From Bob Sears

Most folks remember Dr. Bob’s response to the measles outbreak in his home town.

He told folks DON’T PANIC!!!!

More Measles Hysteria From Bob Sears

That was nearly four years ago, during the Disneyland measles outbreak.

So what’s he saying now?

From panic to hysteria - Dr. Bob on the measles outbreaks.

He’s moved from panic (a sudden overpowering fright) to hysteria (behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess), but is still pushing his usual talking points.

He has changed the way he is talking about measles deaths though.

Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn't deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe - another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn’t deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe – another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.

Remember how he used to say that measles wasn’t deadly and that no one had died of measles in a long time? Now, instead of acknowledging that a woman got caught up in the 2015 outbreaks in Washington and died, he has shifted to saying that there hasn’t been a pediatric death in a long time.

Either way, it is important to understand something he leaves out. There are few deaths from measles these days because most folks are vaccinated!

When did Dr. Bob’s book about vaccines come out? The one with the alternative vaccine schedule?

Whatever his motivation, let’s take a look at what Dr. Bob is saying about measles…

“Measles hysteria is everywhere. And it’s clear the hysteria is a result of media fear around this disease, a disease every child used to get (and handle virtually without complication) not that long ago.”

Dr. Bob Sears

Not that long ago?

I’ve been a pediatrician for 22 years and I have never seen a child with measles. Neither did I have measles, as I was fortunate enough to grow up in the post-vaccine era for measles – a vaccine that has been available for since the 1960s.

And while every child did indeed once get measles, in the pre-vaccine era, not all handled it without complications, which is why measles was called the harmless killer.

Anti-vaccine folks try to hide the risks of measles in mortality rates, but the reality of it is that about 500 people died each year up until the early 1960s when the first measles vaccine was developed.

And I guess that wasn’t that long ago, after all, we had good hygiene and sanitation and healthcare at the time, and yet, a lot of people still died.

“There is another side to this measles conversation: how we’ve unintentionally shifted the burden of disease to babies and adults, both groups who are more likely to experience complications, by vaccinating all schoolchildren and losing natural immunity.”

Dr. Bob Sears

There is really only one side to this.

Folks who are intentionally not vaccinating their kids are getting measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases and are putting us all at risk to get sick.

After all, the MMR vaccine provides life-long immunity to most people. That’s not the problem.

If we went back to the pre-vaccine era, when everyone got measles naturally, as Dr. Bob seems to be advocating for, not only would those kids have to earn their immunity, but many babies (those who hadn’t had measles yet) and adults (those with immune system problems) would still be at great risk.

Are you starting to see how silly his arguments are?

We almost had measles beat!

Consider that there were just 37 measles cases in the United States in 2004. And that we have already had more than twice that amount this month alone!

And while measles was cyclical in the pre-vaccine era, it shouldn’t be when folks are vaccinated and protected. What happened to the cycles between 1997 and 2007?

“Unlike natural immunity, the measles vaccine does NOT offer lifelong protection. Estimates of its protection average around 15 years, and describe a phenomenon in the vaccine world known as “waning immunity.”

Melissa Floyd

The measles vaccine provides lifelong protection. Waning immunity only refers to protection against mumps. And no, there is no call for a third MMR dose for extra protection against measles.

“The other trend we’ve seen over the past 10 years is an increase in adult measles cases. “

Melissa Floyd

Dr. Bob’s sidekick neglects to mention that in addition to unvaccinated kis with measles, the trend is an increase in measles cases in unvaccinated adults! After all, most folks who get measles in these outbreaks are unvaccinated.

“To recap: by losing natural immunity for measles for children 5-19 years old, we’ve exposed babies, pregnant women, and adults to measles—all vulnerable groups who are more likely to experience serious complications from the disease.”

Melissa Floyd

Perhaps the only true statement that they make – “we’ve exposed babies, pregnant women, and adults to measles—all vulnerable groups who are more likely to experience serious complications from the disease.”

And no, vitamin A is not a proven therapy or measles in developed countries. It mainly helps prevent complications in kids who have a vitamin A deficiency.

Hopefully, it is becoming evident that what we need to stop is the anti-vaccine propaganda that keeps folks from vaccinating and protecting their kids. We need to stop the outbreaks.

More on More Measles Hysteria From Bob Sears

What Happens When You Research the Disease?

We know how anti-vaccine folks think.

Anti-vaccine math…

And now we know how they do their research

How Anti-Vaccine Folks Research Disease

If you’re like me, you are probably wondering why they picked 2016 as the year to research.

Why look just at 2016?

And, there you see it.

In the past 6 years, 2016 was the year with the fewest cases of measles. Why not choose 2017 or 2018 to do their research?

But let’s look at 2016, even though the information isn’t complete:

  • 86 cases
  • cases in 19 states, including Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah
  • a large outbreak in Arizona (31 cases) linked to a private detention center and all that is known is that 7 of 9 staff members who got measles had received at least one dose of MMR, and 3 had received their dose very recently
  • a large outbreak in Shelby County, Tennessee, at least 7 cases, including 6 unvaccinated and one partially vaccinated child
  • a large measles outbreak (17 cases) in Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County that was linked to the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community
  • two cases in Colorado, including an unvaccinated toddler and an unvaccinated adult – outbreaks which cost at least $68,192 to control

And of th cases in 2016, it seems that just 16% were vaccinated.

What about the claim that 26% were vaccinated?

That wasn’t 26% of the total number of cases, but rather 26% of the cases among US residents.

So if you do the math, that’s just 14 cases that were vaccinated, and out of 86 cases, that’s really just 16%. And a lot of those cases are skewed by the one outbreak at the detention center, in which they may have only received one dose of MMR and nearly half may have gotten vaccinated after the caught had already started!

What about the claim that “the odds of dying from the measles are like 0.00000013%” using numbers “before the vaccine was introduced in 1963?”

“Before a vaccine became available in 1963, measles was a rite of passage among American children. A red rash would spread over their bodies. They would develop a high fever. Severe cases could cause blindness or brain damage, or even death.”

CDC says measles almost eliminated in U.S.

In the pre-vaccine era, your odds of getting measles were very high. Remember, everyone eventually got measles.

And looking at statistics of reported measles cases and reported measles deaths, we know that death occurred in about 1 to 3 in every 1,000 reported cases.

So everyone got measles, but not everyone survived having measles.

Even if you use a more liberal count of 1 death in 10,000 cases, when all kids get measles, that’s a lot of deaths. Remember, about 450 people used to die with measles each year.

What about your odds of dying with measles now?

If you are fully vaccinated, then they are extremely low.

They are pretty low if you are unvaccinated too, in most cases, because you are benefiting from herd immunity and the fact that most folks around you are vaccinated, reducing your risk of being exposed to measles. Still, the risk is much higher than most anti-vaccine folks expect, because they often make the mistake of using the entire population of the United States in their calculations. They should instead just use the folks who are unvaccinated and susceptible, a much smaller number.

Want to increase your risk?

  • travel out of the country
  • hang out in a cluster with other unvaccinated people
  • stay unvaccinated

The odds aren’t in your favor to avoid measles if you are unvaccinated. Eventually, your luck might run out.

Starting to see the mistakes anti-vaccine folks make when they say they have done their research?

“How do they know how many people would have gotten measles and how many of them would have died?!?”

It’s not rocket science.

It’s epidemiology.

“We constructed a state-space model with population and immunisation coverage estimates and reported surveillance data to estimate annual national measles cases, distributed across age classes. We estimated deaths by applying age-specific and country-specific case-fatality ratios to estimated cases in each age-country class.”

Simons et al on Assessment of the 2010 global measles mortality reduction goal: results from a model of surveillance data.

Unfortunately, after years of improvements, measles deaths increased in 2017. And they will continue to increase, as our risk of getting measles continues to increase if folks don’t get vaccinated and protected.

Lastly, why does it “sound like millions of people would have died without the measles vaccine?”

Maybe because millions of people died in previous years, before they were vaccinated and protected.

Indeed, do your research, but you will find that vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t as mild as anti-vaccine folks believe. That’s why it is important to get vaccinated and protected.

More on Researching Vaccine-Preventable Disease

How Many People Get Measles Each Year?

It used to be that measles was very common and almost everyone got measles.

A measles epidemic hit New York City in 1951, as this front page NYTimes article reports.
A measles epidemic hit New York City in 1951, as this front page NYTimes article reports.

While it was a so-called rite of passage and a part of growing up, it wasn’t something you looked forward to, as some kids didn’t survive having measles.

How Many People Get Measles Each Year?

Fortunately, measles case counts have dropped in the post-vaccine era.

How much did they drop?

Let’s see..

Year Cases
1920 469,924
1941 894,134
over 400 measles deaths each year
1962 503,282
1969 25,826
1970 47,351
1978 26,871
1979 13,597
1983 1,497
1986 6,282
1989 18,193
1990 27,786
1991 9,643
1992 2,200
1993 312
last record high number of measles cases
1994 963
1995 281
1996 508
1997 138
1998 100
1999 100
2000 86
2001 116
2002 44
2003 55
record low number of measles cases
2004 37
2005 66
2006 55
2007 43
2008 140
2009 71
2010 61
2011 220
2012 55
2013 187
worst year for measles since 1994, with the largest single outbreak (377 cases in Ohio) since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated
2014 667
2015 188
2016 86
2017 120
2018 372
2019 >200

Can you guess when the first measles vaccines were introduced?

Can you guess when we started to give kids a second dose of the MMR vaccine?

Can you guess when Wakefield became popular and Dr. Bob’s vaccine book was released?

Do you know how much it costs to contain these outbreaks?

Do you understand the consequences of a natural measles infection?

Can you explain why we will almost certainly have the second highest number of measles cases in one year since 1994, even though we see the devastation that high rates of measles is causing in Europe and other parts of the world?

How many people will get measles in the United States this year?

A lot has changed since we got reassurance from the CDC that we were seeing an expected range of measles cases, although there were plenty of warning signs then that this was going to be one for the record books.
A lot has changed since we got reassurance from the CDC that we were seeing an expected range of measles cases, although there were plenty of warning signs then that this was going to be one for the record books.

Although no one is reporting on this, with several large ongoing outbreaks still not under control – it will be another record year for measles in the United States.

The Rockland County measles outbreak already exceeds the total yearly case count for 11 of the past 19 years!
The Rockland County measles outbreak already exceeds the total yearly case count for 11 of the past 19 years!

And with several large outbreaks continuing overseas, next year doesn’t look like it will be much better, especially with reports of a measles resurgence in many regions of the world.

More on Measles and Measles Cases

Updated on March 6, 2019

Who Dies with Measles?

Measles is another of those diseases that some claim used to be mild and a rite of passage for kids.

That’s why there was an episode of the Brady Bunch about it, right?

An episode in which all of the kids got sick and they had to call two pediatricians to do house calls…

Who Dies with Measles?

While measles was a rite of passage for kids, it wasn’t the kind you looked forward to, because measles is rarely mild.

“Before a vaccine became available in 1963, measles was a rite of passage among American children. A red rash would spread over their bodies. They would develop a high fever. Severe cases could cause blindness or brain damage, or even death.”

CDC says measles almost eliminated in U.S.

Instead, most people develop 10 days of measles symptoms, including a high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes, and a rash. Photophobia, irritability, sore throat, headache, and abdominal pain are other symptoms that children with measles might have.

Many require hospitalization and some die.

But isn’t it just older people or those with immune system problems that die with measles?

“From 1964 through 1971, 16.7% of the death certificates reviewed noted some underlying pathologic condition.”

Roger Barkin, MD on Measles mortality. Analysis of the primary cause of death.

Nope.

It is most often children, typically young children, without any medical problems who die.

Before the routine use of vaccines, most measles deaths were young children without any medical problems.
Before the routine use of measles vaccines, most measles deaths were young children without any previous medical problems.

In the post-vaccination era, no one would be expected to die with measles, but those with immune system problems sometimes do, as most others are vaccinated and protected. As vaccinated rates drop though, even otherwise healthy children and adults can once again die of measles.

Remember the measles outbreaks at the end of the 1980s?

“Complications were reported in 672 (9.8%) cases, including otitis media in 318 (4.6%) cases, pneumonia in 178 (2.6%), diarrhea in 171 (2.5%), and encephalitis in five (0.1%). Nine hundred thirteen patients (13.3%) were hospitalized, and 10 measles-associated fatalities were reported (case-fatality rate: 1.5 deaths per 1000 reported cases). Eight of the deaths were reported in children less than 5 years of age, all of whom were unvaccinated. None had a reported underlying illness or immunodeficiency. Most deaths have been attributed to pneumonia.”

Measles — United States, First 26 Weeks, 1989

Probably not, but from 1989 to 1991 there were at least 123 measles deaths across the United States, even after measles had been declining for years with the introduction of the measles vaccine in the 1960s. Most of the deaths were otherwise healthy, without underlying medical problems.

They were unvaccinated and unprotected.

Because we don’t typically hear any details about measles deaths, including the almost 90,000 measles deaths that continue to occur around the world each year, most people likely assume that measles only kills in third world countries, where kids are already sick or malnourished. Of course, that wouldn’t explain how over one hundred people died with measles in Europe over the past few years…

Still think that measles isn’t deadly?

Tragically, there are plenty of stories (although most are never reported in the news and we don’t hear about them) and case reports that will prove you wrong:

  • Olivia Dahl died with measles when she was 7-years-old (1962)
  • an unvaccinated 3-year-old died in Maricopa County (1970)
  • a 13-year-old girl who had previously been vaccinated with one of the first inactivated measles vaccines which were found to be ineffective and were replaced with the newer live vaccines died in Michigan (1978)
  • a 9-month-old died in Chicago (1990)
  • an unvaccinated 13-year-old died in Kansas (1990)
  • Tammy Bowman, an 11-year-old unvaccinated girl died in Michigan (1990)
  • an unvaccinated 13-year-old became the first person in the UK to die with measles in 14 years (2006)
  • a 14-year-old died of Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE), a late complication of a natural measles infection (2015)
  • an immunocompromised woman died after she was exposed in an outbreak in Clallam County, Washington (2015)
  • a 6-year-old boy with leukemia died in Italy caught measles from his intentionally unvaccinated sibling (2017)
  • an 11-month-old unvaccinated infant died in Greece (2017)
  • an intentionally unvaccinated 9-year-old girl with chromosomopathy, which is not a contraindication to getting vaccinated, died in Italy (2017)
  • a 10-month-old unvaccinated boy who likely caught measles when he had been hospitalized for an RSV infection, died in Italy (2018)
  • a 16-year-old who had received a heart transplant when she was 2-years-old died in France (2018)
  • an unvaccinated toddler in Jerusalem (2018)

Measles as a rite of passage?

“We baby boomers were apparently the last generation whose doctors, and therefore parents, accepted the measles as just one more annoying rite of passage of childhood that also happened to prime the immune system and provide lifelong immunity. Medical texts prior to the advent of the vaccine described measles as a benign, selflimiting (sic) childhood infectious disease that posed little risk to the average well-nourished child.”

Darrerl Crain, DC on The Great Measles Misunderstanding

While early pediatric textbooks did a great job describing the symptoms of measles, they also did a great job of documenting that measles was never a benign disease, something anti-vaccine folks still misunderstand because vaccines can do such a good job controlling the disease.

Even as overall mortality improved in the mid-20th Century, measles still wasn't a benign disease.
Even as overall mortality improved in the mid-20th Century, measles still wasn’t a benign disease.

Do benign, self-limiting childhood infections diseases kill hundreds of children every year?

This toddler died of measles in 1955.
This toddler died of measles in 1955.

Measles as a rite of passage is something we don’t want to have to go back to. It was a rite of passage that was endured because there was no other choice.

We have a choice now.

Don’t be misled into making the wrong one.

Don’t help anti-vaccine folks bring back measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccines are safe, effective and necessary.

“Today, vaccination is a cornerstone of pediatric preventive health care and a rite of passage for nearly all of the approximately 11,000 infants born daily in the United States.”

Cohn et al on Immunizations in the United States: A Rite of Passage

Getting vaccinated and protected is a rite of passage that you can look forward to, thanks to the many benefits of vaccines, not one that you should dread or avoid.

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